Magazine article Parks & Recreation


Magazine article Parks & Recreation


Article excerpt

Steve Thompson, chair of the NRPA Board of Directors, and Barbara Tulipane, NRPA president and CEO, discuss how the pillars were developed and what they can do to help NRPA, its member agencies, and the field of parks and recreation.

Why do we need pillars? How are they going to help the field?

Tulipane: When you talk about park and recreation services and how they shape and build communities, you can get lost in your own story because we do so much. It almost can be overwhelming trying to explain everything. These are the three positions that our members hold as essential that nobody else can claim, and I think that's what makes us unique and distinct. We didn't set out to say, "Okay, what are our pillars?" It was really to try to simplify our messaging about what we hold true and we stand behind.

How were the pillars developed?

Thompson: Although the concept of the three pillars of NRPA has been ingrained in the very fabric of what NRPA has long stood for, it wasn't until 2012 that both the NRPA Board and staff developed position papers based on conservation, health and wellness, and social equity. This provides a very clear message to our elected officials and to our membership so that proper recognition of the impact that parks and recreation has on communities can be better understood. With these three pillars (values) as the focus of our efforts, NRPA continues to strive to ensure the best-possible support for its more than 30,000 members in meeting the diverse needs of their communities and to bring about long-lasting and positive change.

Why these three pillars?

Tulipane: We could have talked about things like recreation programs, fitness, climate change, or stormwater management. But what we really tried to look at is, where do we have the impact? We need to get away from talking about our laundry list of things we do and really focus more on the impact that we make. Yes, we manage stormwater and floodplains, but really that's all about conserving natural resources. You could talk about all of the fitness programs we do, but at the end of the day we're helping communities be healthy and well. And you could explain how parks are a level playing field open to all, or you could really talk about social equity. Again, it was more about the impact and less about the laundry list.

How do the pillars help communicate the impact of parks and recreation on their communities?

Thompson: In the conservation pillar, our parks are critically important in preserving natural resources that have quantifiable economic benefits to our communities. Oftentimes, our park and recreation agencies are the only voice for ensuring that open space is protected, that our youth have access to nature-related areas, and that services and outdoor education are available.

In the health and wellness pillar, our park and recreation agencies have finally been recognized as the leaders in improving and enhancing health and wellness in their respective communities. We are actively engaged in reducing obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

In the social equity pillar, our agencies have embraced complete access to their park and recreation services and facilities. Park and recreation agencies strive to be a catalyst for ensuring that all residents have equal access to their resources and services.

How is NRPA going to be using the pillars?

Tulipane: This past Legislative Forum, I met with the Department of the Interior and the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. …

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